From left, Ellie, Jackson and Karen Fehr of Clearwater, and Aiden and Kija Brady of St. Petersburg enjoy Arbor Day in Belleair.
BELLEAIR – Mayor Gary Katica couldn’t contain his enthusiasm as he looked out at the crowd on the community’s sports field. They were there for the joint Arbor Day and Springfest celebration April 19.
“This is Belleair at its finest,” he said. “The weather broke so it is a wonderful day. It is like this every year. It is a great event; it is just amazing.”
The event has been going on for years. Recreation Director Eric Wahlbeck said it has been a fixture in town since he was a boy 30 years ago.
As the name implies Springfest is to herald the arrival of the new season, and the celebration includes the Touch a Truck exhibit where the children get to climb in and on the various vehicles seen around town regularly.
Katie Tsakos, 3, and her brother Joey, 6, of Largo were having fun inside a mail carrier’s truck. Their dad, John, was happy with the whole thing.
“This is a nice event; it is good for the kids,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve been here. In fact I just saw it advertised in the paper this morning. We’re glad we came.”
Nearby dozens of children were lined up waiting for the egg race. They had to take an egg in a tablespoon and run across the field. There were broken eggs in the wake of that event.
The Arbor Day part of the festivities involved children getting to pot a plant. Once they potted the plant they got to take it with them for mom for Easter. Karen Fehr of Clearwater was one of the lucky moms who got two plants, one from each of her children.
“This is a great event. It is good for the kids to learn all about plants,” she said. “This is our first time here. Normally we’re in Ohio at this time of year. For sure we’ll be back.”
Her friend, Kija Brady, of St. Petersburg was just as excited to have a new plant to bring home.
“I love this event. The Arbor Day part and the Springfest part, they are equally nice,” she said.
Belleair Special Events coordinator Danielle Felten said things went well at the event, but there were some anxious moments early on.
“At 9:50 this morning there was no one here, and then boom, at 10 o’clock they all arrived,” she said. “I’m very happy. This was the first effort for our new intern, Mackenzie Danielson. She arranged this all by herself and as you can see it was a very good effort.”
No matter what the event is called, if it is on the Easter weekend then you have to expect to see the Easter Bunny. Sure enough, there he was talking to little Gracie Gilles, 3, of Belleair. She was holding tight to her mom Angela and didn’t have much to say. Her mom spoke for her.
“The Easter Bunny has left her speechless,” she said. “I can tell you she loved the balloons; that was her favorite part. We love this. We’ve been coming here since she was a year old and for sure we’ll be back, it is a lot of fun.”
And there will be something to come back to. Town officials have no plans to end the event anytime soon. As a Tree City USA, Belleair prides itself on its landscaping and care of trees throughout the town. The Arbor Day celebration will remain part of the celebration for as long as it is held.